Report: CIA flights 'spider's web'


Wednesday, June 7, 2006 Posted: 1202 GMT (2002 HKT)

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- The head of an investigation into alleged CIA secret prisons in Europe ha

s accused the U.S. spy agency of orchestrating a global "spider's web" of detentions and transfers.

Council of Europe investigator Dick Marty listed seven member states who could be held responsible, in varying degrees, for violations of the rights of named individuals by colluding in these operations.

Marty, a Swiss senator, said in his report that Romania was part of what he called a "renditions circuit" and was used as a stopover by CIA planes carrying terrorism suspects.

He also said a Polish airport was likely used as a detainee drop-off point and accused several other countries of colluding with the CIA's "questionable activities."

CNN's European Political Editor, Robin Oakley, said the report, however, offered no clear, direct proof that CIA detention centers were set up in European countries.

He said it relied mostly on flight logs provided by the European Union's air traffic agency, Eurocontrol, and evidence gathered from people who said they had been abducted by U.S. intelligence agents.

As an example, Marty analyzed the flight path of a plane with tail number N313P. He said the plane arrived in Timisoara, Romania, from Kabul, Afghanistan, on the night of January 25, 2004, after having picked up Khaled El-Masri, a German who said he had been abducted in Skopje, Macedonia, and taken to the Afghan capital.

Marty said the plane with the crew that he said accompanied El-Masri stayed in Timisoara for 72 minutes, leaving for Palma de Mallorca.

"Having eliminated other explanations -- including that of a simple logistics flight -- the most likely hypothesis of the purpose of this flight was to transport one or several detainees from Kabul to Romania," Marty said in the report, without elaborating.

Similarly, Marty said he believed the Szymany airport in northeastern Poland was used for a rendition flight in September 2003.

Blair comment

Later in the British parliament Prime Minister Tony Blair said that the report "adds nothing new."

He acknowledged he has previously provided details of four rendition requests made by the United States in 1998, but denied he had indicated any support for rendition programs.

"We have kept parliament informed of all the requests we're aware of, four in 1998, two of which were granted, two declined," Blair said.

"As for the rest of what is in the Council of Europe report, it concerns other countries, and obviously I'm not in a position to speak about them," he said.

In a 67-page explanatory memorandum to his report, made public in Paris on Wednesday, Marty said: "Even if proof, in the classical meaning of the term, is not as yet available, a number of coherent and converging elements indicate that such secret detention centers did indeed exist in Europe."

He said these elements warranted further investigation.

"It is now clear... that authorities in several European countries actively participated with the CIA in these unlawful activities. Other countries ignored them knowingly, or did not want to know," he said.

Marty said he used evidence from national and international air traffic control authorities, as well as sources inside intelligence services, including in the United States, to compile a detailed picture of a global system of secret detentions and unlawful transfers -- including new analysis revealing what he called "rendition circuits".

He listed seven Council of Europe member states who could be held responsible, in varying degrees, which are not always settled definitively, for violations of the rights of specific individuals: Sweden, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the United Kingdom, Italy, "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia", Germany and Turkey.

Several more colluded, actively or passively, in the detention or transfer of unknown persons, he said.


Scottish lawmakers called for Britain to come clean about its role in the renditions affair, while Polish Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz said the report was slanderous.

"These accusations are slanderous ... They are not based on any facts and that is all I know and all I have to say," Marcinkiewicz told reporters in parliament, Reuters reported.

Marty's report is due to be debated by the plenary Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly -- which brings together 630 parliamentarians from the 46 Council of Europe member states -- in Strasbourg on 27 June 2006.

In Marty's initial report issued in late January, the Swiss senator said there was evidence of the "outsourcing" of torture by the U.S., adding it was likely a number of Europe nations or their intelligence agencies knew about it.

At that time, Marty said: "It has been proved -- and, in fact, never denied -- that individuals have been abducted, deprived of their liberty and transported ... in Europe, to be handed over to countries in which they have suffered ... torture."

Late last year, the group Human Rights Watch said it had "not reached final conclusions about CIA operations in eastern Europe," but had collected information that CIA airplanes traveled from Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004, making direct flights to remote airfields in Poland and Romania, and sometimes passing through other European nations.

'Old ground'

When the initial Council of Europe report was issued in January, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack called it "old ground having been plowed."

"Same old reports wrapped up in some new rhetoric," he said. "There's nothing new here."

McCormack repeated what U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she told European leaders on a trip to the continent in December: "The United States does not torture. We respect the sovereignty of our European friends and allies."

He added, "Most importantly, the United States and Europe are fighting a common fight against terrorism."

The Council of Europe is the continent's oldest political organization, founded in 1949. Distinct from the 25-nation European Union, its 46 members include 21 countries from Central and Eastern Europe. One more country in an applicant member -- Belarus.

Five more countries have observer status -- the Holy See, the United States, Canada, Japan and Mexico.

Much of the work of the council is in the field of human rights. Its main success was the European Convention on Human Rights in 1950, which serves as the basis for the European Court of Human Rights.